How does one define widowhood? In spite of its widespread acceptance, the classic definition of widowhood as the phase of marriage following the death of one of the partners is never entirely satisfactory.
In recent decades, the fields of women's and gender studies have rapidly expanded. In trying to understand women's roles in past societies, historians have paid particular attention to issues surrounding marriage, family, and the household.
Michel Foucault famously asserted that sexual identity was a modern invention, remarking, ‘The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species’.(1) For Foucault, the vocabulary and specificity of modern sexual identity were largely formulated under the impetus of 19th-century sexology.
The history of the western European family has been an area of interest for social and cultural historians for several decades with the late medieval and early modern period central to debates about continuity and change in family life. An aspect of family life that has received little attention is the common experience of remarriage and living in a stepfamily.
Married Life in the Middle Ages offers a refreshing approach to medieval marriage. Elisabeth van Houts focuses on the social and emotional sides of marriage rather than viewing marriage through a legal or institutional lens. Two aspects of van Houts’ book set it apart from others.
Centring on the period from the 11th to the early 16th centuries, this collection of eleven essays and a foreword by both well-established and younger scholars addresses a range of still-unexplored aspects of medieval women’s involvement in medical treatment and health care, as well as their role in the consumption, transmission, and production of medical knowledge.